Thursday, October 13, 2016

[Crisis Communications Strategies] Always tell the truth

Trump's hot mic saga took a turn for the worse when two other women came forward to claim that Trump has touched them inappropriately. In a classic strategy of doubling down when ones reputation is attacked, Trump categorically denied that he had sexually assaulted anyone. While this is the typical action of an innocent man, it is not the wise thing to do if you are not.
In today's era of social media, a perfect information environment exists and lies will not remain hidden for very long. And, when the truth is revealed, the crisis of telling a lie is usually much worse than the original crisis. In this case, Trump has once again doubled down by threatening to sue The New York Times that carried the story.
Unfortunately, Trump has miscalculated with his threat to sue The  New York Times. This is because they have deep pockets, a legal team (who probably vetted the story) and they will not be cowed by the threat. If anything, the threat will push The New York Times to investigate the case with more vigor and this will not bode well for Trump. 
For Singaporeans, this will bring to mind the NKF and TT Durai incident in 2004, where the then Chief Executive Officer sued The Straits Times for an article about how he was misusing public donations. Like Trump, TT Durai had successfully used the threat of legal actions to silent his critics before. This however worked only when the threat was made against an individual who did not have deep pockets. So when TT Durai went head to head with The Straits Times, the subsequent attention and media focus brought to light his misdeeds and Durai was eventually found guilty of misleading the charitable organization and sentenced to 3 months jail.
The key point for communications consultants is that all crisis communications strategies need to be based on the truth. Doubling down on a weak (or in this case illegal) situation will not turn out well. In instances like this, the best strategy is to come clean - admit responsibility, apologies with sincerity and offer contrition.
crisis communications strategies lessons from Trump

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